Philippine Delegate Weeps at UN Climate Conference, Starts Fast
November 12, 2013
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press & Andrew R.C. Marshall and Manuel Mogato / Reuters
The devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan cast a gloom over UN climate talks that kicked off Monday in Poland as Naderev 'Yeb' Sano -- the envoy from the Philippines, where thousands are believed to have died when the cyclone made landfall Friday -- broke down in tears and announced he would fast until a "meaningful outcome is in sight. The emotional appeal was met with a standing ovation at the start of two-week effort to cut greenhouse gas and fight global warming.
Philippine Delegate Weeps at UN Climate Conference, Starts Fast
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press
WARSAW (November 11, 2013) -- Moved by the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan, Naderev 'Yeb' Sano vows to fast until 'meaningful' climate outcome
The devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan cast a gloom over UN climate talks that kicked off Monday in Poland as the envoy from the Philippines -- where thousands are believed to have died when the cyclone made landfall Friday -- broke down in tears and announced he would fast until a "meaningful outcome is in sight."
Naderev "Yeb" Sano's emotional appeal was met with a standing ovation at the start of two-week talks in Warsaw where more than 190 countries will try to lay the groundwork for a new pact to fight global warming.
Sano's tears, which he wiped away with a red handkerchief, made other delegates at the COP19 react emotionally as well.
Officials in the Philippines estimate that as many as 10,000 people died in the hard-hit city of Tacloban alone. As the desperate survivors loot for food and supplies, Filipino authorities have begun trying to recover the bodies of those who perished in Haiyan's devastating wake.
Speaking of the link between extreme weather and climate change that scientists have said is wreaking havoc all over the world, Sano urged members of the summit to take action.
"We can fix this. We can stop this madness. Right now, right here," he told delegates in Warsaw.
Choking on his words, he said he was waiting in agony for news from relatives caught in the massive storm's path, though he was relieved to hear his brother had survived.
"In the last two days he has been gathering bodies of the dead with his own two hands," Sano said.
"In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home ... I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate," he added. "This means I will voluntarily refrain from eating food during this (conference) until a meaningful outcome is in sight."
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres also made reference to the "devastating impact" of the typhoon in her opening speech, and urged delegates to "go that extra mile" in their negotiations.
Still, some scientists say single weather events cannot conclusively be linked to global warming. Also, the link between man-made warming and hurricane activity is unclear, though rising sea levels are expected to make low-lying nations more vulnerable to storm surges.
Nevertheless, extreme weather such as hurricanes often prompt calls for urgency at the UN talks.
Last year, Hurricane Sandy's assault on the US East Coast and Typhoon Bopha's impact on the Philippines were mentioned as examples of disasters the world could see more of unless it limits the greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are warming the planet.
On the sidelines of the conference, climate activists called on developed countries to step up their emissions cuts and their pledges of financing to help poor countries adapt to rising seas and other impacts of climate change.
Tense discussions also are expected on a proposed "loss and damage" mechanism that would allow vulnerable countries to get compensation for climate impacts that it's already too late to adapt to.
Asked whether the US had any plans to increase its emissions target in the international talks, US negotiator Trigg Talley said the "focus for us now" is to meet the existing target, of cutting emissions by 17 percent between 2005 and 2020.
"I think that we are on the right track to achieve it," he said, noting President Barack Obama's plans to cut emissions from power plants, boost renewable energy and other measures.
Though no major decisions are expected at the conference in Warsaw's National Stadium, the level of progress could be an indicator of the world's chances of reaching a deal in 2015. That's the new watershed year in the UN-led process after a 2009 summit in Copenhagen ended in discord.
Philippine Typhoon Death Toll To Rise as Rescuers Reach Remote Areas
Andrew R.C. Marshall and Manuel Mogato / Reuters
TACLOBAN, Philippines (November 11, 2013) -- Rescue workers tried to reach towns and villages in the central Philippines on Tuesday that were cut off by a powerful typhoon, fearing the estimated death toll of 10,000 could jump sharply, as relief efforts intensified with the help of US military.
The United States will send an aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, to the Philippines, a US defense official told Reuters, in a move that could further scale up air operations at a time when ground teams are struggling to reach areas where roads are impassable and bridges destroyed.
The carrier is already in the region, having been on a port visit to Hong Kong.
Officials in Tacloban, which bore the brunt of one of the strongest storms ever recorded when it slammed into the Philippines on Friday, have said the death toll could be 10,000 in their city alone.
Compounding the misery for survivors, a depression is due to bring rain to the central and southern Philippines on Tuesday, the weather bureau said.
"I think what worries us the most is that there are so many areas where we have no information from, and when we have this silence, it usually means the damage is even worse," said Joseph Curry of the US Organization Catholic Relief Services.
The "sheer size of the emergency" in the wake of the typhoon was testing relief efforts, he told NBC's "Today" program on Monday, speaking from Manila.
John Ging, director of operations at the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said "many places are strewn with dead bodies" that need to be buried quickly to prevent the outbreak of a public health disaster.
"We're sadly expecting the worst as we get more and more access," said Ging, speaking to reporters at the United Nations in New York.
President Benigno Aquino declared a state of national calamity and deployed hundreds of soldiers in Tacloban to quell looting. Tacloban's administration appeared to be in disarray as city and hospital workers focused on saving their own families and securing food.
Nevertheless, relief supplies were getting into the city four days after Typhoon Haiyan turned the once-vibrant port of 220,000 into a corpse-choked wasteland.
Aid trucks from the airport struggled to enter because of the stream of people and vehicles leaving. On motorbikes, trucks or by foot, people clogged the road to the airport, holding scarves to their faces to blot out the stench of bodies.
Hundreds have left on cargo planes to the capital Manila or the second-biggest city of Cebu, with many more sleeping rough overnight at the wrecked terminal building.
Reuters journalists traveled into the city on a government aid truck which was guarded by soldiers with assault rifles. "It's risky," said Jewel Ray Marcia, an army lieutenant. "People are angry. They are going out of their minds."
RELIEF EFFORTS PICKING UP
International relief efforts have begun to accelerate, with dozens of countries and organizations pledging tens of millions of dollars in aid.
Operations have been hampered because roads, airports and bridges were destroyed or covered in wreckage by surging waves and winds of up to 235 mph.
About 660,000 people were displaced and many have no access to food, water or medicine, the United Nations said.
U.N. aid chief Valerie Amos, who is travelling to the Philippines, released $25 million for aid relief on Monday from the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund.
Amos and the Philippines government are due to launch an appeal and action plan on Tuesday to deal with the disaster.
Aquino's declaration of a state of national calamity will allow the government to use state funds for relief and to control prices. He said the government had set aside 18.7 billion pesos ($432.97 million) for rehabilitation.
Additional US military forces also arrived in the Philippines on Monday to bolster relief efforts, officials said, with US military cargo planes transporting food, medical supplies and water for victims.
Other US aircraft were positioning to assist the Philippines, with US forces operating out of Villamor Air Base in Manila and in Tacloban.
DEATH TOLL EXPECTED TO RISE
Rescuers have yet to reach remote parts of the coast, such as Guiuan, a town in eastern Samar province with a population of 40,000 that was largely destroyed.
The typhoon also leveled Basey, a seaside town in Samar province about 10 km (6 miles) across a bay from Tacloban in Leyte province. About 2,000 people were missing in Basey, said the governor of Samar province.
The damage to the coconut- and rice-growing region was expected to amount to more than 3 billion pesos ($69 million), Citi Research said in a report, with "massive losses" for private property.
Residents of Tacloban, 580 km (360 miles) southeast of Manila, told terrifying accounts of being swept away by a wall of water, revealing a city that had been hopelessly unprepared for a storm of Haiyan's power.
Most of the damage and deaths were caused by waves that inundated towns, washed ships ashore and swept away villages in scenes reminiscent of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Jean Mae Amande, 22, said she was washed several kilometers from her home by the surge of water. The current ripped her out to sea before pushing her back to shore where she was able to cling to a tree and grab a rope thrown from a boat.
An old man who had been swimming with her died when his neck was gashed by an iron roof, she said.
"It's a miracle that the ship was there," Amande said.
Additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco and Karen Lema in Manila, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations and Phil Stewart in Washington; Writing by Dean Yates; Editing by Janet Lawrence.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.